World / Crime & Legal

Brazil releases photos in bid to catch and extradite Italian wanted in four 1970s slayings


Brazilian federal police, now cooperating with a longtime Italian demand, on Sunday released a photo montage of Cesare Battisti, an Italian sought by Rome for four murders attributed to a far-left group in the 1970s.

The series of 20 images show the 63-year-old Italian with a variety of accessories — a beard, a mustache, glasses or a hat — to help citizens or police identify him.

Italy has repeatedly sought the extradition of Battisti, who has lived in Brazil for years under protection accorded him by former leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, now in prison for corruption.

But during the country’s recent presidential campaign, far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro — now president-elect — vowed that if elected he would “immediately” extradite Battisti.

On Friday, Bolsonaro reiterated on Twitter that Italy could “count” on his cooperation.

President Michel Temer on Friday ordered Battisti’s extradition to Italy, where he was sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment for the four homicides.

Battisti was last seen two weeks ago in the small coastal city of Cananeia, a police commissioner told the G1 site. He is now considered a fugitive.

An Italian military plane has been standing ready at Guarulhos International Airport near Sao Paulo to transport him to Rome.

Battisti was convicted in Italy in 1979 of being a member of the outlawed Armed Proletarians for Communism, but escaped from prison.

He was subsequently convicted in absentia of having killed two Italian police, taking part in the murder of a butcher and helping plan the slaying of a jeweler who died in a shootout that left his 14-year-old son paralyzed.

Battisti admitted to being part of the group but denied responsibility for any deaths.

He reinvented himself as an author, and in 2004 skipped bail in France, where he had taken refuge, and went to live clandestinely in Brazil until his 2007 arrest in Rio de Janeiro.

After four years in custody, Lula issued a decree refusing his extradition and he was freed, angering Italy.

Battisti, who has a 5-year-old Brazilian son, last year told AFP he faced “torture” and death if he were ever returned to Italy.